Wednesday, March 19, 2008

getting the most out of your cloth diaper dollar

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Recently, I wrote about my cost of cloth diapering in the first year of Elizabeth's life. That post found its way onto The Simple Dollar, where there were lots of great comments that got me thinking more about the expense of cloth, and more importantly, how to reduce the cost of cloth even more compared to what I spent in my first year. I've compiled a quick reference for how to get the most out of your cloth diaper dollar.

If you are looking for the absolute least expensive new diapers to buy look for prefolds, pins, and plastic covers. If I were to go now and purchase new what I would need for Elizabeth (based on this past year's experience), I would only spend about $115 dollars on the covers, diapers, and pins (thats 24 infant prefolds at $1.50/each, 24 regular prefolds at $2.00/each, 4 covers each in 2 different sizes - $5/2 covers, and $1.00 for a pack of diaper pins). 24 Wipes - $24.00. If you just use a 5 gallon bucket with a lid, that's about $3 at your local home store. So, you're looking at $142, no sales tax or shipping included, and that should last you until your child hits about 25 pounds.

Shop around at various internet retailers. Many times, they offer free shipping on orders above the $75 dollar mark. Look for a shop that doesn't charge sales tax in your state. Look for sales, and look for "starter kits" - these can offer great savings.

You could go even cheaper if you purchased used diapers, or found new previously owned diapers on places like eBay. I picked up some covers for about 4 dollars less than retail, even with the shipping cost. Note that eBay (and many other places) don't allow selling of used diapers. Buying used diapers can make a huge difference in cost - you can often find diapers for less than half the price of new diaper. is a great place to find good deals on used diapers.

Make your own - there are patterns available for free for making cloth diapers, even the fancy fitteds and pocket style diapers. Of course, it will be much less expensive to make prefolds, but a sewing machine and some time will make the diapers and the wipes easily.

Do your research There are lots of different cloth diapering systems out there, and you can stick with one style, or go with a combination. Every child wears diapers differently, and you need to find what will work best with your child. Since I didn't know how Elizabeth would diaper, I got a variety of diaper styles, and have found the items that I prefer to work with.

Wash a little, air dry - If you're just using prefolds and covers, you can use just about any inexpensive detergent you want. It doesn't take a lot of detergent to get the job done. Even just a rinse, wash, rinse, rinse will be sufficient for most situations. Air dry your cloth - huge savings if you just take advantage of the air and sun, or in the winter, just drape the diapers on a drying rack, or even lines strung across your laundry area.

Understand the impact of detergent and your wash process on your diapers. Although there are many advocates for using the cheapest detergent you can find, if you are choosing to use diapers that have fleece or other specialty materials and designs, cheap can ruin your diapers (as in, the elastic is no longer functional). For all kinds of diapers, many detergents can cause repelling issues and stink issues that require lots of washes to remove. One resource that is often referred to is the detergent analysis found at Pinstripes and Polkadots.

There are a Bazillion cloth diaper shops online and almost as many manufacturers (both large companies and WAHM sized businesses) It's worth the time to see what is available before you invest lots into your diapering system.

For many of us, it's worth the extra expense (although still cheaper than disposables!) to get the expensive cloth diapers, as they can be easy to use and offer many of the same benefits of disposables. You might even convince your daycare to let you use pocket diapers, or all-in-one diapers. It's worth an ask!


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